September 7, 2017/Press

ICYMI: New Data Shows Public Overwhelming Disapproves of New Maps

Key Passages: “Of the more than 4,300 written comments that legislators received on redistricting, just 38 were positive, according to Sen. Jeff Jackson, a Charlotte Democrat, who said he got the data from General Assembly staff.”

“[the Wisconsin case before the U.S. Supreme Court is] leading to a growing bipartisan campaign against gerrymandering that includes one of North Carolina’s Republican representatives in the U.S. House of Representatives.”

News & Observer: NC lawmakers asked the public to comment on political maps. Here’s the response they got.
By Will Doran and Anne Blythe
September 6, 2017

When legislators were in the middle of debating changes to North Carolina House and Senate districts last month, they were legally required to seek public input.

But they don’t appear to have listened too intently.

Of the more than 4,300 written comments that legislators received on redistricting, just 38 were positive, according to Sen. Jeff Jackson, a Charlotte Democrat, who said he got the data from General Assembly staff.

“That means 99.2 percent of the comments were opposed to precisely what the redistricting committee went ahead and did anyway — which was to draw the maps to favor one party,” Jackson wrote in a post on the Charlotte Agenda news website.

Reaction at public hearings was similarly lopsided. Two days after receiving the last of the overly negative public comments, the legislature passed the new districts largely along party lines, with Republicans mostly in favor and Democrats mostly opposed. The proposed maps are due to a panel of federal judges this week.

Republican legislators in charge of redistricting did not immediately respond to questions about the public reaction. On Wednesday, a day after his post went online, Jackson said he hadn’t heard from any fellow legislators weighing in on his analysis of the comments. He said he doesn’t think any of them would be too surprised at the lopsided public opinion.

“There are not two sides to this issue,” he said in an interview.

The fate of redistricting in North Carolina could very well hang on an upcoming Supreme Court case, involving districts in Wisconsin.

While courts have previously ruled against racial gerrymandering – like in North Carolina’s case – they haven’t stepped in to stop political gerrymandering.

But the Wisconsin case could change that, and it’s leading to a growing bipartisan campaign against gerrymandering that includes one of North Carolina’s Republican representatives in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Rep. Walter Jones, a Pitt County Republican, signed on to a friend-of-the-court brief in the case, along with three dozen other current and former members of Congress.

“Americans do not like gerrymandering,” their brief states. “They see its mischief, and absent a legal remedy, their sense of powerlessness and discouragement has increased, deepening the crisis of confidence in our democracy. We share this perspective.”

Read the full article here.

Key Passages: “There’s no way this legislature can comply with that order [to fix their racial gerrymander] unless they look at race. So this notion that we don’t want to look at race because the court told us [not to]… that’s just open defiance of what the court actually did tell them to do.”

Winston-Salem Chronicle: Ignoring race in redrawing districts is big GOP blunder
By Cash Michaels
September 7, 2017

To many legal experts, it’s hard to believe that Republican legislative leaders deliberately redrew new voting maps for the state House and Senate – as ordered by a three-judge federal court – without incorporating race as one of the nine criteria guiding the process. After all, it was the abusive, and according to the US Supreme Court, illegal use of race by Republican mapmakers in drawing the 2011 redistricting plan that earned the ire of the federal court – namely the stacking and packing of black voters into 28 of 170 districts across the state in order to severely weaken their influence in legislative races, thus giving the GOP super-majorities in both houses.

Legal experts considered it “the worst racial gerrymander in the country.”

“What the court said is in writing, and it’s not really open to interpretation,” countered Anita Earls, founder and executive director of the Southern Coalition for Social Justice, and an attorney representing the plaintiffs’ lawsuit against the GOP’s 2011 legislative maps in Covington v. the State of North Carolina.

“The notion that [Republicans] have some understanding that the court told them not to look at race, that’s just not true,” she maintained. “It’s really just lying. It’s in this alternative universe where we can say whatever we want to and facts don’t matter.”

Earls continued that in its order to draw districts the court said, “Any district that you draw at greater than 50 percent black, tell us why you believed it was necessary to draw the district at that percentage black. There’s no way this legislature can comply with that order unless they look at race. So this notion that we don’t want to look at race because the court told us [not to]… that’s just open defiance of what the court actually did tell them to do.”

“This theme that [Republicans] are going to be ‘colorblind,’ well, we’re not foolish. Those of us who’ve been advocating for racial justice have long known that this notion of ‘being colorblind’ as the way that you remedy discrimination, and reverse the decades of racial discrimination that black people have experienced in this country …, well, we know that that’s a lie,” Attorney Earls said.

“And that is the lie that they’re perpetuating, right now today, as they try to assert that they’re not looking at race, and the court told them not to look at race.”

Earls maintains that now even the redrawn maps are “illegal under the state and federal constitutions.”

Read the full article here.